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Retired Admiral Latest to Face Censure in Fat Leonard Scandal

U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force, addresses Marines on July, 28, 2017, at Royal Australian Air Force Base in Australia. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Damion Hatch)
U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. Lawrence Nicholson, commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force, addresses Marines on July, 28, 2017, at Royal Australian Air Force Base in Australia. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Damion Hatch)

A former commander of the carrier Ronald Reagan inappropriately accepted gifts and set a “wholly unethical tone of leadership,” the Secretary of the Navy announced Wednesday.

Rear Adm. Kenneth Norton, who retired from the Navy in 2014, is the latest of dozens of Navy officers, active and retired, to face discipline or rebuke for their role in what has become known as the “Fat Leonard” bribery scandal.

Norton interacted with Glenn Defense Marine Asia, the company at the heart of the scandal, between 2008 and 2010 while commanding the Ronald Reagan in the Pacific, according to a Navy release. Leonard Glenn Francis, the owner of the company, was found to have bribed military officers with money, special perks, and prostitutes in exchange for information about ship movements and other classified material.

A “thorough review” of Norton’s interactions with the company found that his conduct did not conform to the Navy’s ethical standards and showed “exceedingly poor judgment and leadership,” bringing “ill-repute and disgrace” upon the Navy, according to the release.

Navy officials did not specify what the nature of Norton’s misconduct was or what he received from GDMA.

After reviewing the findings and recommendation of the Consolidated Disposition Authority for GDMA matters, I decided that Rear Adm. (ret.) Norton’s conduct reflected improper personal behavior and set a wholly unethical tone of leadership. Censure was both necessary and appropriate,” Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said in a statement.

According to Norton’s official biography, he was commissioned in 1981 and served a command tour aboard the now-decommissioned fast combat support ship Camden prior to commanding the Ronald Reagan. Both ships earned the Battle “E” award for effectiveness under his leadership.

The investigation into GDMA’s activities began in March 2014 under then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

“Fat Leonard” Francis himself pleaded guilty in U.S. Federal Court in 2015 to bribing military officers.

Some 200 Navy personnel have been caught up in the Fat Leonard Scandal. To date, 14 Navy officials have pleaded guilty and another five officers are awaiting court-martial.

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